One of the big storylines for every Super Bowl is the quarterback matchup, and Super Bowl 58 is no exception as all eyes will be on Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes and 49ers QB Brock Purdy. Mahomes is the face of the NFL and is arguably on pace to become the greatest QB in NFL history. Purdy emerged from literal irrelevance to put together one of the greatest statistical seasons in the illustrious history of the 49ers franchise. Let’s break down the Mahomes vs. Purdy Super Bowl 58 quarterback matchup.
What’s at Stake For Patrick Mahomes
Patrick Mahomes will be starting his fourth Super Bowl in five years when he takes the field in Las Vegas. At age 28, he has already built a Hall of Fame-worthy career in just seven seasons, with two regular season MVPs, two Super Bowl MVPs, and two rings, not to mention a plethora of other records and accolades. With another win in Super Bowl LVIII and likely another MVP award to go with it, Mahomes will be reaching rarefied air in the discussion of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
Here are just a few of Mahomes’ most impressive career accomplishments if he wins his third ring and third MVP this season:
- Four Super Bowl appearances is already tied for the third-most appearances by a quarterback with seven other players – Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Roger Staubach, Peyton Manning, and Jim Kelly. John Elway had five and Tom Brady had 10.
- If he wins a third ring, he will be tied with Troy Aikman for the fourth-most rings by a QB. Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw have four and Tom Brady has seven.
- If he wins his third MVP, he would be tied with Joe Montana for the second-most Super Bowl MVPs. Tom Brady has five.
Mahomes still has a long way to go to approach a legend like Tom Brady, based on both rings and longevity, but with another ring he would enter the conversation with the next tier of quarterbacks below Brady. Sports bar patrons can debate the order of guys like Joe Montana, John Elway, Peyton Manning, Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, Dan Marino, Aaron Rodgers, and maybe a few others. But Mahomes would undoubtedly already be firmly entrenched in that group.
Mahomes is already 9th all-time in postseason passing yards with 4,802 and 6th in postseason passing touchdowns with 39. With three rings and likely three MVPs, he could have an argument for being the third-best postseason QB of all time. Brady and Montana would still be ahead, as they would still have more rings, passing yards, and touchdowns. After that, Mahomes would still be trailing Bradshaw by one ring and would be tied with Aikman, but he would have better overall postseason numbers than both of those Hall of Famers.
Can Mahomes eventually catch Tom Brady and become the new consensus Greatest Of All Time? Maybe. If he wins his 3rd ring, he will be ahead of Brady’s pace after their first six seasons as starters. However, it would still be premature to expect him to do what Brady did in his 30s and finish with seven rings.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 28, 2024
Ultimately, with a third ring in Super Bowl LVIII, Mahomes would entrench himself as a top 10 and possibly top 5 QB of all time already, depending on how you value postseason achievements relative to career longevity and regular season numbers. It’s certainly possible that he could maintain his current pace well into his 30s and eventually reach Brady’s stratosphere, but he still has a very long way to go before it’s appropriate to start having that conversation.
Of course, he still needs to win Super Bowl LVIII or most of the above would mean nothing – for now.
What’s at Stake For Brock Purdy
A little over one year ago, Brock Purdy’s sensational rookie season ended unceremoniously when he tore the UCL in his throwing arm. After having Tommy John surgery in the offseason, Purdy unexpectedly returned for Week 1 of this season and put together one of the greatest single seasons by a QB in the storied history of the 49ers’ franchise.
The 49ers’ franchise has been blessed with two Hall of Fame QBs in Joe Montana and Steve Young. As noted above, Montana is probably the second greatest QB of all time (for now). And yet it’s Purdy who now holds the 49ers’ franchise record for most passing yards in a single season with 4,280 (267.5 per game). He is also first in yards per attempt (min. 100 attempts), tied for fourth in touchdowns, and tied for fourth in completion percentage.
The narrative surrounding Purdy is that he is a good QB who is putting up great numbers because of a great coach, a great offensive system, and a great set of playmakers around him. All of that may be true, but it should not take anything away from what Purdy accomplished this season. The 49ers have had many other “good” quarterbacks in Kyle Shanahan’s system with a strong supporting cast, and none of them came close to doing what Purdy did this season.
Mahomes vs. Purdy By the Numbers
To put Purdy’s season into perspective, let’s compare some key categories with Mahomes’ season, which was admittedly a down year for him statistically.
Critics argue that Purdy benefits from the elite yards-after-catch ability of Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk. Purdy had 122 passing yards per game from YAC, which was 46% of his total passing yards. Mahomes had 154 passing yards per game from YAC, which was 60% of his total passing yards. Mahomes also threw 23% of his passes behind the line of scrimmage, while Purdy only threw 14% of his passes behind the line, per Pro Football Focus. In other words, Mahomes was much more reliant on YAC for his production this season than Purdy was.
Purdy was also more aggressive throwing the ball down the field. His average depth of target (ADOT) was 8.5 yards, which was tied for 9th in the league among QBs with at least 400 passing snaps. Mahomes was dead last with a 6.9 ADOT. Purdy was also 7th in PFF’s “big time throws” (deep throws, tight windows, etc.) with 32 which threw on 5.9% of his passes (5th most). Mahomes was close behind with 30 BTTs, but threw them just 4% of the time.
According to ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio, Purdy also tended to throw into tighter coverage more frequently than Mahomes. His targets had an average of 3.6 yards of separation, while Mahomes’ targets had 4.1 yards of space on average. Mahomes threw to wide open receivers (at least 5 yards of separation) on 30% of his throws, while Purdy only had wide open receivers on 22% of his throws. Finally, Purdy had a 39% completion rate on throws into tight windows, while Mahomes had just a 25% completion rate on those throws.
We are not saying that Purdy is better than Mahomes, but we are saying that many of his advanced numbers were better this season. Maybe he also had a better situation around him than Mahomes did, but there is no refuting that Purdy was an elite quarterback this season.
Now let’s see what he can do in the Super Bowl against the Chiefs’ elite defense.
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